An elected BOE will endanger Montclair’s diverse, inclusive future (Letter to the Editor)
The Mission of the Montclair Public Schools: “The Montclair Public School District is dedicated to creating a culture of learning and continuous improvement that provides every child with a high quality, creative, innovative and challenging education, through a magnet system of integrated schools in which every school represents a strong, diverse and vibrant community of learners.”
As a 46-year Montclair resident who spent the first 20 of those years as a passionate school volunteer, I completely understand why parents would want to see a dramatic change here. The school board meetings of the past several years have not given us evidence that an appointed board best serves our needs. We see a myriad of difficult challenges that need a fix. I get it. I get it.
However, an elected school board is not the answer to repairing the ills of our public school system. Please, before you vote, take time to educate yourself about the history of the Montclair Public Schools. Ask yourself what other districts in the state, if not the nation, are trying to do what we’re struggling to do. “Are we succeeding?” That’s one question you obviously ask. But the other is: “Is the fight worth fighting?”
Before you make your decision, please take time to watch the Montclair History Center film “A Place To Become,” the history of de facto segregation, integration, and civil rights struggles here in town. Please listen to the voices of people who shaped the original mission of our schools in the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence documentary “Our Town, Our Schools.” Both are available on YouTube. Read the book “Keeping the Struggle Alive” for a history of where we’ve been. Read it to your children.
As you tell yourself that the vast majority of New Jersey schools have elected boards, please remember that we are different. We (I hope) are trying to maintain a magnet school system with voluntary busing for integration. In my view, an elected school board will eventually mean the end of that struggle. Not in a one-election cycle. Not so that you see it immediately. Just as so many other “norms,” rights and privileges are disintegrating before our eyes, so will the Montclair magnet school system. Candidates will campaign on issues related to our tax burden and we can kiss goodbye to the goal of a diverse, innovative school system.
Please take the long view of a district that is unique and therefore should not be governed like the rest. Yes we have many challenges ahead but changing our method of selecting school board members is not the solution. We will have other mayors. Don’t be short-sighted, please. A no vote is a commitment to our future.
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